We’ve been meeting 9 am to 1 pm for most of 2 weeks, with one day off for the election. Each day brings a different configuration of students to be taught and volunteers to teach them. Many of the students are sponsored by my dear friend, Mary Fry, and her Bloom Where Planted foundation, based in Pasadena. Her agent, James Mugo, is really on the ball, gathering the kids and bringing them here to Mji. By far, the greatest number are form 4’s, about 30 of them yesterday. We’ve spent as much as 4 hours a day on math, with biology, physics and chemistry being offered when someone was available.
My morning began today with finding out which of the form 3’s and 4’s take which science and then trying to match up kids with teachers and rooms. After finding the yard man to open one classroom, I started out teaching the 2’s until Kevin showed up and I was free! It’s good to have some time, as I’ve been feeling exhausted. Four hours on my feet (on concrete floors) yesterday about did me in.
James has been great about finding graduates who did very well in high school to teach. As I write, Lydia, form 4 from SFG, is teaching biology to 22 form 3 and 4’s in the Mji dining room.When I asked this morning about who wanted biology, many raised their hands. “OK who is good in biology?” Several people indicated Lydia, who shyly agreed that she does well and would be willing to teach the class. When I walked in later, to take the picture, I could see she’s doing a great job. Students were attentive, taking notes.
One of 2 Kevins is using the old Mji kitchen to teach physics to 8 form 3’s and 4’s. A graduate of Ndingi and one of Mary Fry’s sponsored students, he will begin university in September.
Maxwell started out teaching math to 5 form 2’s, but when I came in to take the picture, they had changed to chemistry, which he seemed to be handling like a pro.
Other Kevin is teaching math to 3 form 1’s, including our Lucas from Mji on the far end. He’s another Ndingi graduate who earned A in math and is headed to university to study economics.
At 1 o’clock I visited each room to see how things had gone (well, by all reports). I found Nancy, another SFG grad and Mary Frey kid, talking to the group about the English exam and about her experiences in university. Nancy is a student I know because she is so vibrant, so full of energy and such fun. She was the emcee of SFG Talent Show in her 4th year. Did a fab job!
Having some time has stimulated my thinking about next year and following years. What will happen to the tuitioning program if I don’t come again? That’s a distinct possibility, given how it has been for me this year. I’m definitely feeling my age. What I’m thinking is that James Mugo can organize students to do the teaching and I think Fr. Ngaruiya would be open to letting the rooms be used. I like the idea of students teaching students and see it as the long-term solution to this need. Clearly the students find it useful, or they wouldn’t keep turning up.
Another reason my future here is uncertain is the distinct possibility of permanently closing Mji. Where would I stay? Catherine has offered to host me, but I think having a guest for 2 ½ months would be hard for her, if for no other reason than she is traveling more and more as her Life Bloom program becomes known. She has spoken in several European countries, other African countries and of course in the US. If you haven’t acquainted yourself with her and her work, I urge you to visit www.lifebloomservicesintl.org She is working to help establish LB programs in other parts of the world, particularly in areas where women and girls are most vulnerable.
I’ve known Catherine since 2005, have hosted her severally in Menlo Park, and continue to be in awe of all she does. It’s not just that she created an organization the likes of which had not been seen and has now interacted with over 6000 women and girls (and a few men), but also she is very much on the ground with individuals. I wrote earlier this year about Julia, a very vulnerable woman and her child, Betsy, named for Betsy Rose of Berkeley, who happened to be visiting Life Bloom at the time of baby Betsy’s birth in 2016. Unfortunately, Julia is quite unstable, having had many life challenges. Currently she is missing, with baby in the care of the grandmother, who recently suffered a stroke and is partially paralyzed on one side. She has no money for her own food, let alone to feed Betsy. When I encountered Catherine in the church parking last Sunday, she was on her way to the market to buy food for Betsy and grandmother. I contributed to that, but it’s only a short-term solution. Grandmother needs support for herself and Betsy needs a stable environment. Child abandonment is a felony, so Julia will probably end up in jail when she is found. Children up to school age are usually with their mothers in the jail, but as you can imagine, it’s not an ideal environment in which to raise a child. These are issues Catherine deals with on a daily basis, as well as running LB. What makes it possible is the staff organization she has developed. Wanjiru is her 2nd in command and is a powerful woman in her own right. The 2 of them are a double whammy!!!! She has trained her staff so well they are able to carry on the program in her absence.
The woman on the left is a LB participant and a female donkey cart driver—very unusual for women, but LB ladies can do anything, when they are empowered! She is teaching Wanjiru how to balance the load for best results. Note the donkey on the left is attached to its mother, not to the cart. That’s how the training begins. This picture is from 2011, taken during preparation for a donkey cart race, one of the many fund-raising activities taken on by LB.
In addition to being LB Executive Director on the macro level and dealing with individual crises on the micro level, Catherine has 3 teen aged children, Laura in university, Louis in form 1 and Michael in class 8. Can you imagine she is also finishing her PhD work (in her spare time????)
(later) I sent the above to Catherine to verify I had all the facts. She wrote back more information about Julia, Betsy, Betsy’s grandmother and Betsy’s great grandmother.
I will send her writings as an addendum, along with some pix.